Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Popeye Would Be Proud of This Florentine

When I was a kid, I used to watch the cartoon, "Popeye" and marveled at how the salty sailor obtained superhuman strength whenever he consumed a can of spinach. "Hmmm...must be a ploy to get kids to eat their vegetables," I thought (yes, I was a pretty cynical 10-year old!). Well, long story short, Popeye and his heroic exploits never did enticed me to eat my vegetables. Only much later in life did I start eating and surprisingly (to me at least), enjoying my vegetables.

Spinach, like most vegetables, has high nutritional value and is rich in antioxidants and vitamins. Cooking it is easy but making sure that it is cooked right is the tricky part. A big handful of spinach leaves, when cooked too long, will wilt into barely anything. In general, the flavor profile of spinach matches very well with garlic, mushrooms, cheese and cream, which, for all intents and purposes, are all present and accounted for in this particular dish that we are cooking.

Let's start with a salmon fillet with the skin removed. Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper and pan fry it on a hot, well-oiled skillet. The best result is to get some browning on either side, creating an irresistibly delicious crust on the flesh. Remove the fish from the pan and finish cooking it in the oven. Check for doneness frequently so as not to overcook the salmon.

Now with the pan still hot, add in some chopped onions and garlic and mushrooms (shiitake is the best choice but domestic ones are OK as well). Sauté these ingredients and then deglaze with some white wine and season with salt and pepper. Add heavy cream and parmesan cheese to the pan and turn off the heat. Do not add the spinach yet as it will overcook and wilt too much. Wait for the salmon to finish cooking first. When you are sure that the fish is done, turn the heat back on and add the spinach to the pan. Sauté the spinach with the rest of the ingredients to wilt it just little. Now the dish is ready to be served. Garnish with extra parmesan cheese by sprinkling it on the fish and the vegetable as well. Dishes made with spinach are often given the moniker "Florentine." So it's only fitting that this dish be called "Salmon Florentine."

If only Popeye could see me now!

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